Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Marketing Rebellion: Are You Ready for the Revolution?

Marketing Rebellion Cover

In 1991, the music industry went through a major rebellion. In the late 1980’s, “hair metal” bands like Bon Jovi, Poison, Warrant and Ratt ruled the radio and MTV. The more success they found, the more new bands copied their sounds and looks. But, the music got worse and the looks and gimmicks got more ridiculous. The public got fed up with this bloated music scene, and it all came crashing down. With the release of Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit," fans seemed to switch their alliances overnight. Gone were the “hair metal” bands and in came grunge bands. The songs were simpler and stripped-down and focused on the realities of what the bands were feeling. Kids better related to the songs as they described what they were going through in their lives. 

The signs were there for the “hair metal” bands. The copycat bands focused more on the flash and fashion that had helped make the earlier bands successful. They stopped paying attention to changing musical tastes and the integrity of the music. That’s what really drove the musical revolution. We’re seeing a similar trend now in marketing. We’re creating copycat content and force-feeding it to customers instead of focusing on their needs. We’re hitting the same tipping point as the “hair metal” bands. Marketing consultant, speaker and author, Mark Schaefer is seeing the shift and discusses it in his book, “Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins.” This post examines the book and a Content Marketing World book club discussion with Schaefer.

The End of Control

How did we get here? We continue to do the things our customers hate. People don’t want to see ads. With radio, people change the channel during commercials. With TV, people either change channels or fast forward through them. With computers, people install pop-up and ad blockers. Some even pay for ad-free tiers of streaming music. So what do we do as marketers? We spend more time trying to get past the technology to force people to see our ads than trying to actually help them. 

Why is it so hard for us to listen to our customers and stop doing the things they hate? According to Schaefer, one reason is that we have a comfort in being able to measure these tactics. When metrics show declining performance, we tend to tweak the program rather than make real improvements. Bigger changes take us into the unknown and could mean implementing tactics that aren’t as measurable. We have to learn to be comfortable with this.  

In addition to measuring, these tactics feel more tangible. We can show an ad we created and have the feeling that we did something. The creation becomes the end goal rather than the means of reaching the actual business goal we’re working towards (paraphrased from Doug Kessler’s Content Marketing World 2019 presentation). 

Ultimately, marketers have lost control. The book points to a McKinsey report (from 2009!) that shows “two-thirds of the touchpoints during the evaluation phase of a purchase involve human-driven marketing activities like internet reviews, social media conversations, and word-of-mouth recommendations from friends, family, and online experts.” Only one-third of the marketing they pay attention to comes from us. Customers are now in control. What does that mean for marketers? We must be more human.

Marketers Are Lost

As marketers, we’re paying close attention to the changes in marketing trends and tools, but we’re missing the customer evolution. Our perception of what we think is effective vs. what customers are experiencing is way off. Customer loyalty barely exists and trust in brands is at an all-time low. 

Five factors are contributing to this situation:
    Mark Schaefer
  1. Crushing Technological Change: The pace of change and the amount of data are overwhelming. We constantly feel behind. 
  2. Over-reliance on Technology and Automation: We’re losing track that our customers are humans and not data points. With more technology and tools, we opt for better efficiency over better experience.
  3. Organizational Paralysis: Companies continue to do things that are no longer working. Like above, instead of making changes, we tweak programs and budgets. We don’t stop to look to see what’s changing and how we need to adapt to these changes.
  4. The Comfort of Measurement: We need to move away from metrics that we know we can get and experiment in areas where the metrics may be less clear.
  5. Tech is Changing Consumer Behavior Rapidly: As technology is changing how we market, it’s also changing our customers’ behaviors. Hyper-empowered customers are less loyal, more informed and less trusting of customers. What worked in marketing 10 years ago, won’t always work now.

Given these conditions, how can marketers continue to be effective? How can we make any type of long term plans if everything is going to change so quickly? The book points to Jeff Bezo’s approach with Amazon. Instead of worrying about what’s going to change in the next 10 years, he focuses on what’s NOT going to change. They build their business strategy around the things that will be stable over time. In Amazon’s case, they know customers will always want low prices, fast delivery and a wide selection. These are the human needs they build around. They develop the strategy and create or use the technology and tools that help them deliver. They don’t build a strategy based on using tools. Focusing on being human and relating to humans will make companies more successful.

The Most Human Companies Wins

Let’s be clear here. Marketing technology is not causing issues. Technology is a great thing when it can remove friction and barriers with our customers. Misusing technology is the issue. Here are ways in which we misuse technology to disrespect customers:
  • The Cycle of Annoyance: Downloading content doesn’t mean a customer wants a windfall of emails. How many times have you received an email, or worse, a phone call minutes after filling out a form?
  • Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should: Don’t put tactics in place tactics based on what statistics tell you works instead of what we know customers want. For example, we’ve all heard that the data says pop-ups are effective. But even if you’re getting a 6% click rate, you’re still annoying 94% of your website visitors. 
  • Technology Is Not the “Easy Button”: Online conversations are ok, but can’t replace face to face. Face to face still provides tidbits of info that you’d never get through online surveys and chats. Go on sales visits. Take part in sales calls. What can you learn from tech support calls and field visits?
  • The Uninvited Guest: These are the programmatic ads, spammy emails, robocalls and other interruptions that customers hate.

How do we keep from losing the human touch? According to Schaefer, “Great marketing builds an emotional connection to customers in some way...when we become obsessed with technology, we lose focus on emotion...If you’re not in the business of creating emotion, you’re not in marketing, you’re in sales. You’re just trying to move merchandise.” 

I Love the Hands that Made It

“I love the hands that made it” may be the most memorable quote and story from the book. It typifies how some brands will be able to be successful. In this example, Schaefer explains that a friend had a stack of handcrafted soaps. She explained she didn’t necessarily love the brand but loved the hands that made it. She knew the story of the local soap company and its founders. Like her, the owners want to make the world a nicer place to live. She believes in their mission and wants to support them.

How can other brands exemplify this type of humanity? One way is to be fans of your fans and make them the hero of your stories. That means understanding who your fans are and what’s important to them. How do their values align with your brand? How can you make them feel good by buying your products? These are the types of customers that are happy to tell your story to everyone they know.

Risks and Pitfalls

Becoming a more human company is not easy, especially for well-established companies. According to Schaefer, companies need to distinguish between what they “think” it means to be human and what it actually means. Are they practicing what they preach? While authenticity is important, many customers would settle for companies just being honest. Shaefer explains that being human must be in the company’s DNA. If it’s not, customers may not believe it. Or, worse, that can cause a backlash or breach of trust that can take years to fix.

Where does that leave brands that have questionable pasts or have never shown a human side? Shaefer isn’t sure if they can make a pivot to be more human. At the very least, it will take a lot of time and, in some cases, a culture change within the company. But, it may be worth the effort if it’s something they believe.

Marketing Rebellion offers more details with more examples of how marketing is shifting. Shaefer provides a thought-provoking approach for you to examine your marketing to be more human and effective. It’s had the most impact on my marketing over the last year and I can’t recommend it highly enough. 

Thanks for reading and please share your comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this approach. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Woodstock of Marketing Conferences: A Recap of Content Marketing World 2019

Music festivals are all the rage right now. The concept is pretty simple. Get a few days’ worth of musical acts, promote it to their fans and then make money. Hit the right mix of artists at the right time for the right causes and your festival will be legendary. I’m talking about events like Woodstock and Live Aid. The key is the audience. The rock music community is an especially tight knit and accepting group. This community is a big part of what makes festivals so successful.

In not too much of a stretch, marketing conferences are our festivals. And the Woodstock of marketing conferences is Content Marketing World. But instead of Jimi Hendrix, The Who and Janis Joplin; we have Joe Pulizzi, Robert Rose, Tamsen Webster, and…Henry Rollins (whose band played at Woodstock 94!). They, and so many more, brought their greatest hits and newest insights to keep us entertained and intrigued for four days. I can’t cover everything, but here are the most memorable performances and takeaways that will drive my content marketing for the next year.

The Star-Spangled Banner (Jimi Hendrix)

Content Marketing Stats 2019

While Jimi Hendrix’s closing set at Woodstock included this iconic performance, Robert Rose’s opening keynote set the tone for the days to come. Previewing the latest research from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, Rose highlighted the following:
  • 51% have a small content marketing group servicing the entire company
  • 41% have a formal content marketing strategy – the key differentiator for companies showing content marketing success
  • 61% say their biggest content marketing challenge is coordinating silos
  • 57% are unsure whether they have measured ROI
  • 88% put audience information needs above all else

We’re moving in the right direction, but we still have work to do. He explained that in a crowd, you tend pick out certain people you find familiar. We need to set the expectations and context for our content so our customers will expect to see it. The right content will have people looking for it.

I Can’t Explain (The Who)

Content Marketing World Joe Pulizzi Presentation Illustration
Illustration by Kingman Ink
Joe Pulizzi presented 7 Content Marketing Laws for the Next Decade. I won’t go through all here, but the first law is that you need to explain what you’re doing to those that control the budget. If they have no clue what you’re doing, they’ll cut the budget. Not only explain what you’re doing, but why. They need to understand the logic, the goals and the ultimate payoff.

Even more than explaining why, you need to be able to say no to requests that don’t fall within your content marketing strategy. Pulizzi said, “You know you’re right. You have the strategy. You’ve done the work. Stick by it like your life depends on it.”

This also means you have to explain that content isn’t a campaign. It’s an ongoing process. It’s also a long-term play with at least 18 months before you show a return. Our only goal is to create better customers who stay longer.

Soul Sacrifice (Santana)

Content Marketing World Stage

Pulizzi also stressed that you need to build your audience by focusing on one thing. Sacrifice the things you don’t do well to do one thing great. Once you build a loyal audience, then you can diversify to another content platform. Pulizzi discussed MailChimp who launched 12-13 programs at the same time. Most likely, they will fail because they’re trying to do too many things at once.

Peter Gartland and Andrew Pickering, aka Andrew and Pete, reinforced this point with their 90/10 rule. They stated that you should spend 90% of your time doing the one thing you do remarkably well. Use the remaining 10% for experimenting.

If you don’t know what content to focus on, look for reaction spikes. Focus on the content to which your audience is reacting. Better yet, if you know why they’re reacting, you know how to focus your marketing efforts.

Green River (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

I find myself going back to Tamsen Webster’s keynote presentation more than any other She explained how to get the green light from customers with our content. It starts with understanding the mindset of most people. In general, we all believe that we’re smart, capable and good. We need our messaging to reinforce these beliefs.
Getting the green light involves three customer statements:
  • I want it. It’s hard to get people to unwant things. It’s also hard to get people to want things they don’t want. Simply telling people to buy your product isn’t effective.
  • I believe it. Most people are more persuaded by their own reasons more than those told to them by others. We may get a person to take an action (one time), but the key is getting them to change (continually doing the new action).
  • It makes me right. Validate what people already want and believe to create the change.

We are not rational, we rationalize. Our brains supply stories that are consistent with us being smart, capable and good. Webster gave the example of people who successfully lost weight through Weight Watchers. Those who thought they were good, capable and smart lost weight because it validated their wants and beliefs. Those that struggled thought they would become good, capable and smart when they lost the weight.

We need to change from saying, “you’re doing it wrong, so do this with my product,” to building on our customers’ beliefs. How?
  • Start with what your customers want
  • Find what’s right in what’s wrong. How can you align the action you want them to take with something they already believe?
  • Give them a problem they can solve. Success drives engagement, not happiness
  • Let them come to your conclusion. Use their reasoning to validate yours. To build engagement, solve for success

You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now (Johnny Winter)

Content Marketing World Doug Kessler Slide

Doug Kessler announced great news! We’ve won the great content marketing revolution! But now, marketing has transitioned to an operational mode. This has led to two major problems:
  • Content has become the goal instead of the means to the actual business goals
  • Brands have become soulless, content-spewing zombies

Kessler’s solution is to revisit the oldest thing in marketing: the galvanizing story. He defines the galvanizing story as a “clear, compelling, structured narrative at the heart of your brand that unites everything you do and say.” The purpose is to shock your customers into action. The galvanizing story takes your customer through the pain of the inevitable change they are facing to see the new opportunity. The story will lead them to overcome the obstacle that is holding them back from taking advantage of the brand new world.

With a Little Help from my Friends (Joe Cocker)

Content Marketing World Crystal Ball

Like Woodstock, the audience (attendees) is as important as the bands (speakers). We refer to this annual event as a family reunion because we get to see each other in person. Our “family” grows every year as more of us meet and talk about our biggest challenges and help each other out. The networking and these conversations are as valuable as the sessions, if not more so. Our community is the reason I believe Content Marketing World is the best marketing conference available.

No Mediocre Content, Ever. (Henry Rollins)

Content Marketing World Henry Rollins Presentation Illustration
Illustration by Kingman Ink
Ok, this header isn’t a song featured at Woodstock. But it is the single sentence that stands out above all if I had to narrow everything down to one. The intensity and passion in which Rollins attacks his experiences is infectious. I’m not saying we have to go to the death-defying extremes that he does. But if you heard his talk and you weren’t motivated by it, you’re simply in the wrong business.

Another Content Marketing World has come and gone. It always goes too fast, but the real fun is implementing everything we learn. It’s not always easy as we get thrust back into our daily grinds without a clear point to start putting in new ideas. The key is to just start. Take a few hours to look at your projects and reassess them based on your new knowledge. What can you adjust and update? What do you need to start doing? Better yet, what can you stop doing? I’m making a more concerted effort than ever before not to get sucked back into the “same old.”

If you went to Content Marketing World, what were your biggest takeaways? If you didn’t go, I hope I get to see you there next year (tenth anniversary!). If I can help in any way to make that happen, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Comment below or shoot me a message on Twitter (@jeremybednarski). Thanks for reading my recap!

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Get Live Updates of Content Marketing World 2019 in Cleveland

Hello, content marketers! Year #9!  Content Marketing World is invading downtown Cleveland! Welcome all. I can't wait to catch up with old friends and meet new friends. I know the idea of networking is intimidating to a lot of people. Here are some of my tips (published by Content Marketing World) that might help:

Content Marketing World Community Tips: Professional Networking

As always, I'll also be posting quite a bit on social media. Whether you're not able to make it and want to follow along or if you're there and want to see what's going on in other sessions, I want to make it easy for you to follow me. 

Here are links to my social media profiles. Feel free to follow me on any or all of them (during and after the conference):
My schedule is below so you can see what sessions I'm in and will be posting about and the times. This year was one of the hardest in choosing sessions. There are so many great speakers! The schedule is highly subject to change. If you're at the conference, please come up and say hi or send me messages.

Tuesday, Sept. 3
  • 7pm: Opening Night Reception at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Wednesday, Sept. 4
  • 8am: Welcome to Content Marketing World 2019 – Robert Rose and Stephanie Stahl 
  • 8:15am: Keynote – Marketing 2030 – Joe Pulizzi
  • 8:45am: Keynote – Getting the Green Light: How to Build Content People Say YES To – Tamsen Webster 
  • 10:15: The Galvanizing Story – Doug Kessler
  • 11:20am: The Secret Rule for Getting Massive Content Marketing Results in a Fraction of the Time - Andrew and Pete
  • 12:25pm: Seven Psychological Triggers Every Marketer Should Master – Daniel Codella
  • 2pm: Content Marketing Fitness – 10 Exercises to Build your Marketing Beach Body – Lee Odden
  • 3:05pm: The Future of Content Marketing is Voice and Smart Audio – How to Measure Success with this New Technology – Mitch Joel
  • 4:15: Content Marketing Awards Presentations and Announcements
  • 4:45pm: Keynote: Everything Has Changed and Nothing Is Different – Scott Stratten
  • 5:15pm: Keynote: Henry Rollins
  • 6pm: Yappy Hour Cocktails and Networking
  • 8:30pm: CMWorld Evening Entertainment at Punch Bowl Social
Thursday, Sept. 5
  • 8:30am: Keynote: The Art of Storytelling: Stories Have the Ability to Empower Real Change – Kathy Button Bell
  • 9:00am: Keynote: Customer Acquisition Through Authentic Storytelling: Transforming Content into Commerce – Nilla Ali
  • 10:15am: How to Integrate Content Marketing with TV Commercials, PR, and Sponsorships – Jesper Laursen 
  • 11:20am: How to Build a Mega Personal Brand on LinkedIn on a Mini Budget – Michaela Alexis
  • 12:20pm: How Pop-Marketing Saved the World: Is Nostalgia Back from the Future? – Joe Cox and Adam Forstadt
  • 1:45pm:  185 Comics Walk into a Storytelling Bar… – Kathy Klotz-Guest
  • 2:50pm: Charting the Course to a Career in Content Marketing – Amy Higgins
  • 4:00pm: Closing Keynote with Mindy Kaling
Friday, Sept. 7
  • 8:00am: Guardians of Content Vol. 1: How to Scale B2B Influencer Content to Save the Galaxy – Ashley Zeckman
  • 9:00am: Binge Marketing: The Best Scenario for Building your Brand – Carlijn Postma
The schedule is subject to change. You never know when an opportunity may present itself! Thanks for following me and I hope you find the information I share to be valuable. As always, you can also check out my blog, Taking it Back ( I'll have a recap post of my experience at Content Marketing World a few days after the event.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

An Open Letter to Cleveland Marketing Professionals

Dear Cleveland Marketers,

I know many of you. I’m sure there are many I don’t. Either way, I hope you’re all having a successful 2019 so far. I’m writing to you to talk about a topic that is near and dear to my heart: Content Marketing World. Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute, started this premier marketing conference in Cleveland in 2011. Now in its ninth year, the one thing that surprises me is how few Cleveland marketers I see there. Don’t get me wrong. There are many who are as passionate as I am, but nowhere near the number who should be taking advantage of this incredible resource in our hometown. Quite honestly, I don’t get it and I need to say something. If you’re going this year, or have gone and can’t make it this year even though you want to, no need for you to continue reading. You already get it. But for the rest of you…please read on.

Let me start by saying I’m not a Content Marketing Institute employee. I’m just a local marketer who believes in content marketing as the right marketing approach. I’m lucky enough to be friends with many CMI employees and a very active member of the #CMWorld community. But, that said, this letter comes from me. Not as a conduit for CMI or any other organization. Just me. A Cleveland marketer who appreciates what we have at our fingertips.

There are lots of marketing conferences. Lots of marketing organizations who create events. But how many are as respected as Content Marketing World? It’s so highly regarded that Cleveland is the International Content Marketing Capital of the World! Simply put, it’s special. I’ve talked to attendees from all over the world who tell me.

I want to make sure that Content Marketing World remains in Cleveland for years to come. That’s where you come in. I want to see as many Cleveland marketers there to show off what a strong marketing city we are. It’s great that attendees get to see the city and recognize it for hosting this event. They also need to see how strong of a local marketing community we have and how we support this event and each other.

I’m sure many of you who haven’t gone have reasons but allow me to address some of them:

Not Familiar with Content Marketing World

Unless you’re new to Cleveland, I find this one hard to believe. As I mentioned, this is its 9th year. You had to at least have heard a mention, seen a sign, stumbled across an ad, something! The city literally turns orange from August through the first week of September.

My Boss/Company Won’t Send Me (or is sending someone else)

I understand this one all too well. My company isn’t sending me this year either. I missed the first two years before the company I worked for at the time finally sent me. I’ve been hooked ever since. In fact, this is the 4th time my company isn’t sending me so I’ve paid my own way each of those times. I understand that not everyone can do that, but I find so much value every year that the investment is worth it.

If that’s not an option for you, do you need to better prove the value to your boss? Content Marketing Institute helps with that. They provide helpful hints to help justify the cost and benefits of attending, including a letter you can download and personalize.

Don’t forget to point out to your boss that they’ll save the cost of travel and hotel which can be significant. (Note: I stay in a hotel so that I can immerse myself in it and take advantage of all networking opportunities.)

If your company is sending someone else, show them the ridiculous amount of sessions and speakers. They could send more than one employee and cover a wider range of topics and needs you may have.
Also, try inviting your boss. I’m willing to bet their experience will make it easier to earmark the budget for future years!

For the bosses: This is a marketing resource you should be budgeting for and utilizing. I’d be happy to talk to you more about the value and benefits of the event and why you and your employees need to attend. Feel free to email me at

I’m Already Going to Another Marketing Conference

I understand this as well, but please consider it next year. I’ve been to other shows and, as I mentioned above, CMW is special. The accessibility to the speakers and other experts is incredible. The #CMWorld community is unlike any other in our warmth, fun and authentic friendliness. Every year is like a giant reunion and the more, the merrier!

The level of expertise of all the speakers is top-notch, and you don’t feel like they’re trying to sell you something (…ahem, HubSpot and Salesforce). The sessions are meant to help you learn how to solve problems and further your marketing knowledge (and career!).

My Company Doesn’t Do Content Marketing

First of all, why not? Have you tried and didn’t have success? There could be a number of reasons for that from the level of commitment from the company to lack of a documented content marketing strategy. Or, do you not think you need it for your product/service/industry? As people get continually inundated with ads and marketing messages, an effective content strategy can help you break through the clutter and drive more sales.

Whatever the case may be, Content Marketing World offers ~30 marketing tracks for all levels of marketing experience. I’m sure there are sessions that would benefit your company’s marketing strategy.

Cleveland Is the Content Marketing Capital of the World

There’s been such a buzz around Cleveland for the past several years. Content Marketing World has been one of the biggest drivers of that buzz for the last nine years. How many cities would love to host it? How many marketers would love to have 4000 of the biggest experts descend on their cities? We have it. It’s here. Every year. We need to make sure we keep it here. Be proud of Cleveland’s content marketing stature and come support it. Experience what you’ve missed. I guarantee you’ll find it exceeds your expectations.

That’s All Well and Good, But…

Ok, some of you still need convincing. The best I can do is tell you what I’ve gotten out of Content Marketing World over the years. Check out my recaps from years past:

Final Pitch

Ok, here’s the close because if you don’t get it by now, I’m not sure what else I can do. Well, maybe one thing…throw you a discount! You knew it was coming. Get $100 off your registration when you use code JEREMY100.

Content Marketing World is coming up fast! We’re less than a month away. Hurry up and register now. I want to see you there. And, I want to hear from you after the event. Tell me if I was right! Even if I wasn’t, I want to know where I steered you wrong. Thanks for reading and if you do go, email me at and let’s meet up in person.


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Content Marketing Grows Up: A Content Marketing World 2018 Recap

It’s hard to believe another Content Marketing World in Cleveland has come and gone. It was my sixth! From a giant video game screen to seeing Joe Pulizzi back on the Content Marketing World stage, Content Marketing Institute went all out as usual to continue offering the best marketing conference available.

Every year I look for themes and trends that will drive the next year or so of content marketing. This year felt a little different. Instead of focusing on what content marketing is meant to do (build an audience that you can eventually monetize through content) and how to build it into our businesses, it seems like it’s grown up a bit (or leveled up to stay with their Game On theme!).

According to Robert Rose, we’re now at the point where a new player is joining: trust. Trust is built by truth. And, our job as content marketers is to create content that shapes the beliefs that create the truth which leads to trust. This year’s sessions (at least the ones I attended) offered tips and strategies to help us do that. The themes showed us multiple ways to produce content that resonates with our audience to keep it from being lumped in with all the mediocre content out there.

Think For Yourself

Authenticity was a big theme, but that’s nothing new. What was refreshing though was Jay Acunzo’s advice: think for yourself. Stay away from best practices because what works for one brand isn’t necessarily going to work for another. There are specific contexts and circumstances that lead to success. What’s important for brands is to understand what’s going to work best for them. 

We need to ask questions. Better open-ended questions. Seek out the answers you need until you find the right answer for you. Acunzo says, “We need to stop acting like experts and start acting like investigators.” Following that up with:

“Exceptional work isn’t created by the answers others give us but by the questions we ask ourselves.”

How many times have you looked for best practices, applied them, and were underwhelmed by the results? Best practices lead to mediocrity because they are applied by many and in a different context than the original. To truly stand out, you need to learn more about your customer.

He referenced his upcoming book, Break the Wheel, explaining the concept and how it came from Game of Thrones. Each kingdom is a spoke in a wheel, one may be on top now until the next spoke is on top. It’s a cycle of the same. The only way to break the cycle is to “break the wheel.” Similarly with content, if your content is just a collection of best practices, it’s the same as spokes making their way to the top with the same average content. Break the wheel by finding your own answers and thinking for yourself.

The Curiosity Gap

What do you do when you’re bombarded with reports and stats that claim people have the attention span of a goldfish? This thought has been used for a number of years (I wrote a blog post in 2014 explaining why the idea is crap). The answer is that we end up shortening our content because we think that's the only way people will read it. So, we pull things out. Ironically, according to Andrew Davis, we remove the things that make the content interesting. What we fail to realize is that good content gets consumed. Average content does not. Davis explained how to pull people into your content by focusing on our curiosity. People are curious. We want to know things. We want answers!

When Davis took the stage with a giant box and gently set it on a table, we wanted to know what was in it. Did he tell us right away? Of course not, he teased and played throughout his presentation before revealing the contents. Appropriately enough, he explained exactly why we wanted to know: 
  • Between what we know and what we want to know is the Curiosity Gap
  • The Curiosity Gap creates tension which is the emotional anxiety we feel
  • By playing on this tension, we go from wanting to know to needing to know; we need closure
  • Finally, there is the payoff: The outcome which needs to be proportional to the tension your content creates

Stated as a formula, here is how you earn audience attention:

Attention = (Tension/Time) x Payoff

Many of us are creating case studies and white papers for our clients and companies. Most of these don’t include curiosity gaps, tension or payoffs. Our customers already know the story because noone is going to create a case study in which their company failed. But, if you reorder the elements, you can create curiosity gaps. Start with the result and delay revealing how they did it for as long as you can. Think like a reality TV editor who creates enough tension before every commercial break to keep you watching for the payoff. 

Let Your Audience to the Talking

Who do we trust? Our friends and family. Who don’t we trust? Companies. If you can get your customers to tell your story for you, you greatly increase your credibility. Here are two approaches to build strategies to do that.

Talk Triggers

Jay Baer has a new book coming out called Talk Triggers. In it (and through his session), he discusses creating a word of mouth strategy. The main idea is that by giving your customers a story to tell, they will create customers for you. The following statistics help to prove this point:
  • 19% of all purchases are caused completely by word of mouth
  • 50% of all purchased are caused primarily by word of mouth
  • 91% of B2B purchases are caused primarily by word of mouth

Talk triggers are strategic, operational choices that compel word of mouth. There are four requirements for creating a talk trigger that can grow your business:
  • It must be remarkable: We discuss things that are different and ignore average
  • It must be repeatable: It is far easier to use content to amplify something that is always true
  • It must be reasonable: Experiences should be big enough to be talked about, but not so big to be untrusted
  • It must be relevant: Your content must have context and accentuate who you are and what you’re about

User Generated Content

One way to make sure your content is authentic is to let your customers create it. Jacquie Chakirelis talked about the benefits of user generated content (UGC). UGC is any content that is contributed by unpaid persons. It has a definite effect on the performance of the content. According to Salesforce, UGC improves performance on every digital marketing channel:
  • 90% of visitors spend more time on a webpage that has UGC
  • 73% increase in email campaigns using UGC
  • 50% increase in engagement with UGC
  • 5x the click through rate with UGC
  • 10% increase in conversions by using UGC
And, the Ipsos Millennial Social Influence Study:
  • UGC is 35% more memorable than other media
  • UGC is 50% more trusted than other media
  • UGC is 20% more influential on purchase
Getting your audience engaged is how you build strong social content. Encourage your customers to interact with you. Create content that makes them the hero and gives them opportunities to create content you can use (don’t forget to get their permission).

Do Something Different

With so much content out there, sometimes it makes more sense to take a different approach. Zag when everyone else is zigging. The following two approaches are clearly taking the lesser traveled road.

Who Needs Google When You Have Propinquity

Everyone has to play the Google game, right? Maybe not. Tom Martin points out that we’re mathematically going to lose with Google. We have to rank on pages 1 or 2 (really, it’s just page 1). 99.999349% of those trying to rank, fail. Instead of playing by Google’s rules, what if there’s another way? That way is propinquity. What?

Propinquity is the concept that with greater physical (or psychological) proximity between people, the greater the chance that they will form friendships or romantic relationships. It applies to content in that if you can get your content on the websites where your customers are, you can reach them before they go to Google. And, if you’re able to get your content on multiple sites, you could rank for specific keywords from all of them which can help protect against any Google algorithm changes. All that said, this is not an easy approach. But, if you can do it well, you’ll definitely have an advantage.

Signature Sound

When you think of audio content, you probably go right to podcasts. But, what if you could create a signature sound for your brand? Instantly recognizable sounds include Southwest's "ding" or the voice of Tom Bodett for Motel 6. 

Tom Webster explained that audio content requires a different approach to your story. We experience it in a different way. Sound is very important to brands. There is a ton of content for the eyes, but not much for the ears.

Audio is the fastest path to connection. What we hear, we feel.  It’s a faster trip to the brain. When you hear something, you don’t have to think about it like you do with things you see. There aren’t a lot of brands focusing on audio content, so take advantage.

Speaking of Different…

This year, a few speakers took new approaches (at least new to me). The results were presentations that stood out:
  • Avava Leibtag: Starting out the session with a sing along to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” may have been the best opening I’ve seen. She offered writing tips based on the songwriting approach of many of our favorite artists, complete with video. This was simply my favorite session.
  • Andrew and Pete: Besides being entertaining on their own, these two turned their presentation into a game show that got us all involved to help the “winner.” Oh, and their main message was how to stay out of the content “Danger Zone” through the Remarkability Trifle. Yes, you read that right…Remarkability Trifle.

  • Joe Lauzaskas: I was intrigued by his session because it was about the neuroscience of storytelling. Oxytocin fosters human emotion. He examined if oxytocin can be released through stories. Stories illuminate our minds as neurons fire together. Stories make us remember and care. Content marketing works because our brains are programmed for stories.

    But, what’s so different here? Well, Lauzaskas ended the presentation with a live neuroscience experiment to see how five members of the audience would respond to an emotional ad (even though he was advised not to). The results may not have gone as expected as the responses waned after about the midway point of the ad instead of peaking at the end and the emotional payoff. That said, it was an interesting look at what he just presented in action.
As always, thanks for taking the time to read my post. This is just a portion of what I learned.  There was so much more. I didn't even mention Tina Fey, Ann Handley, Dewitt Jones, Melanie Deziel or Andy Crestodina! They were all incredible! As always, this event left me inspired and energized. It’s always bittersweet as the event comes to a close each year. I’m excited to apply everything I’ve learned, but sad that It’s going to be another year until I get to experience it again.I'm happy to say that at year 8, it's still going strong.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Follow Me on Social Media During Content Marketing World 2018

Hello, content marketers! It’s that time of year!  Content Marketing World is invading downtown Cleveland! Welcome to everyone visiting from out of town. 

I wrote a guest post for Content Marketing World last year, Content Marketing Advice: Always Jump Where Your Friends Are. I wrote about the benefits of face-to-face interactions and networking. As always, I’d love to meet you, so feel free to come right up and introduce yourself (if I don’t come up to you first). 

Also, as always, I'll also be posting quite a bit on social media. Whether you're not able to make it and want to follow along or if you're there and want to see what's going on in other sessions, I want to make it easy for you to follow me. 

Here are links to my social media profiles. Feel free to follow me on any or all of them (during and after the conference):

·                     Twitter: @JeremyBednarski
·                     LinkedIn: Jeremy Bednarski, MBA
·                     Facebook: Jeremy Bednarski
·                     Instagram: JeremyBednarski
·                     Snapchat: JeremyBednarski

My schedule is below so you can see what sessions I'm in and will be posting about and the times. If you're at the conference, please come up and say hi or send me messages.

Also, I'm from Cleveland, so if you have any questions about the city or need any recommendations for places to go, I'm happy to help. 

Tuesday, Sept. 4
·                     7pm: Opening Night Reception at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Wednesday, Sept. 5
·                     8am: Welcome to the Content Marketing World 2018 – Robert Rose and Stephanie Stahl 
·                     8:15am: Keynote – Uncovering the Secrets to Life and Marketing (While Living in Cleveland – Joe Pulizzi
·                     8:45am: Keynote – Curiosity Factor: The Psychological Phenomenon Creative Content Marketers Employ to Earn and Own Attention in a Noisy World – Andrew Davis 
·                     10:15: Content Strategy and SEO for B2B Lead Generation - Andy Crestodina
·                     11:20am: Talk Triggers: How Killer Content Creates Conversation and Clones Customers - Jay Baer
·                     12:20pm: Brand Attachment: The Realm Beyond Brand Loyalty and How to Get There – Gordon Price Locke and Nicole Martin
·                     1:45pm: Break the Wheel: Stories and Ideas for Being Better than Best Practices - Jay Acunzo
·                     2:50pm: How to Google Proof your Lead Gen Content Marketing Programs – Tom Martin
·                     4:15: Content Marketing Awards Presentations and Announcements
·                     4:35pm: Keynote: What Gives? How a Reader Challenge Kicked Me in the Patootie (and What We Can Learn from It)! – Ann Handley
·                     5:00pm: Keynote: Extraordinary Visions – Dewitt Jones
·                     5:45pm: Yappy Hour Cocktails and Networking
·                     8:30pm: CMWorld Evening Entertainment at House of Blues

Thursday, Sept. 6
·                     8:30am: Keynote: Making Content Mean Something – Kathleen Diamantakis
·                     9:00am: Keynote: Twitch and the Power of Audience Participation – Jane Weedon
·                     10am: The Top 7 Writing Secrets of Hit-Making Songwriters – Ahava Leibtag 
·                     11:05am: The Competitive Edge: How to Create a Unique Content Spin in a World of Copycats – Andrew and Pete
·                     12:05pm: How to Make your Ideas Irresistible – Tamsen Webster
·                     1:30pm:  Stories for the Win: The Hidden Neuroscience of Content Marketing, and Why Great Stories Make Our Brains Want to Buy – Joe Lazauskas
·                     2:35pm: The Secret 3 Steps for Content Amplification and Distribution Success – Heidi Cohen
·                     4:00pm: Closing Keynote with Tina Fey

Friday, Sept. 7
·                     8:00am: How Female Entrepreneurs Built their Empires with User Generated Content and You Can Too – Jacquie Chakirelis
·                     9:00am: Developing a Holistic Audio Content Strategy – Tom Webster 

The schedule is subject to change. You never know when an opportunity may present itself!

Thanks for following me and I hope you find the information I share to be valuable. As always, you can also check out my blog, Taking it Back ( I'll have a recap post of my experience at Content Marketing World a few days after the event.